Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and India’s Alpha Design Technologies have signed a teaming agreement to co-produce and market mini-drones (Unmanned Aerial Systems — UAS) in India.

According to the agreement IAI’s Bird-Eye 400, Bird-Eye 650, as well as other mini-UAS would be manufactured in India. The drones will be jointly marketed by the two partners.

India’s Armed Forces, Police, Coastguard and Border Security Forces (BSF, ITBP) are considered to be potential buyers.

The decision to manufacture drones in India is seen as a strategic move to benefit from Indian government’s initiative to give preference to local manufacturers in defence procurement.

In response to recent Chinese incursions, India is working to upgrade its border defences along its North-Eastern frontier. The drones are a cost-effective way to monitor 3,480 km long mostly mountainous border with China.

India’s has also successfully deployed Israeli drones on its North-Western borders against Jihadist infiltration from Pakistan. In 1999 Israeli-made UAVs played a crucial role in India’s victory over Pakistan in Kargil conflict. Since then, Indian Armed Forces have inducted Israeli-made UAVs in a big ways as part of the arsenal.

Meanwhile, IAI is working with India’s state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on a $215 million project to commission NRUAVs (Naval Rotary UAVs – unmanned helicopters) operated from Naval Ship decks for surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s visit to India is expected to boost bilateral defence cooperation even further. Minister Ya’alon will attend Aero India 2015 , the biennial military air show and exhibition in Bengaluru from February 18-22. 2015, and sign defence deals worth up to $1.5 billion.

(Vijeta Uniyal is an Indian journalist based in Europe and Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute)